Let me set the scene. It’s the second week of January, and I’m mildly salty because my regional bestie, who I’m in lowkey in love with, spends literally all her time with her new man. Finally, after an intense crying session resulting from running into them being cute, I decide to stop being childish and reach out to her to talk about things. We set up a lunch date that Sunday, and I wake up excited that morning, texting back and forth with her to find a worthy lunch spot. Just as I hurriedly grab my keys and head to my car, she calls. Our Dee killed himself, she says repeatedly. I drop the call and drive over to her house.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my year.
All the details of that day are still engraved in my memory. The tears as she recounted everything the cops said. The tears as she hugged me for minutes, asking me why. The tears as I realized he died at the exact same spot we went hiking last thanksgiving, where he challenged me to run up the never-ending flight of stairs and I failed miserably, where we sang along to Sean Kingston’s Beautiful Girls on our way and we took turns taking pictures of ourselves, where we laughed and had the most amazing time. The tears haven’t stopped, but they show up a lot less frequently these days.
Next, followed a version of anxiety unique to immigrants in America. My employment authorization document, which I had done everything right and on time to apply for, was refusing to show up in my mailbox. I panicked. My former document had expired, and therefore my driver’s license was also expired. I was pretty much an illegal in the making, waiting for my grace days to be over, so I could graduate to being an official illegal, wondering what would become of my planned transition to a work visa and my entire life, if it didn’t show up at all, and delaying my move to a better apartment because I didn’t want a change of address to be the reason why I didn’t get it. I desperately signed up to write IELTS and hatched a plan to move to Canada, if it turned out that my journey as an American immigrant had come to an untimely end. I channelled all my energy into studying my ass off for the exam.
The silver lining in all of this was a budding romance that I didn’t have the time or mental energy to acknowledge because I was too busy worrying about my impending deportation while supporting my grieving friend and barely supporting my grieving self. But I was falling for someone slowly, and when my employment document finally showed up in the mail to my utmost relief, I regained the mental capacity to wonder how I’d gotten attached to a beautiful and kind human male. Just months ago, I had thought I was at the beginning of what would be a long gay phase, but somehow the heterosexual in me was advertising herself again. I didn’t bother fighting it, but we lived in different cities and that was a challenge, so one Saturday morning, I woke up and booked a flight to his city, a trip that would leave me miserable as hell and calling things off with him as soon as it was over. I loved him and I still do, but I realize now that he’s better off if I love him from afar.
At the beginning of the summer, my regional bestie pushed me to host a brunch and I did. She pulled up with her boo and supported me all the way. My new local ting also stayed up with me to plan the whole thing. It was the highest high of the season, right up there with a trip to LA that would go on to be my best vacation this year. I had never hosted anything before in my entire life, and it went so well. I was so proud of myself that I went on to host yet another successful event at my apartment in the fall to mark my 26th birthday. Oh, the benefits of being surrounded by blessings in the form of people.
Switching over to a work visa at the end of the spring involved ‘winning’ a lottery, and so all I could do was wait. After spending the entire summer holding onto whatever drop of optimism I could borrow from my loved ones, I got the rejection email. I didn’t get picked in the lottery, and so I was free to continue counting my days of being unable to leave the country until the following year when the next lottery would be conducted. I was shattered because I had allowed myself to look forward to visiting home. My depression was triggered, and I sobbed every chance I got. I had days where I walked into spaces like Walmart wondering whether I’d be lucky enough to be the victim of one of the random public shootings that seemed to be happening way too often. I was lonely. None of my immigrant friends could relate to being unlucky in that way. My non-immigrant friends were so different from me and wouldn’t understand, and my closest friends and family members that loved me to death were so far away.
Drowning in disappointment soon got boring and so, I eventually decided to focus on a new goal that I was in control of – getting a better job. My boss had just quit, and I was sceptical about who was going to be hired to replace him. Things also weren’t going that well with his interim replacement, and I deserved a decent pay raise anyway. Because I had just moved apartments, I wasn’t ready to relocate out of state, so I started applying to local jobs. I did many interviews and got rejected from them all, and by the end of the fall, it was clear that looking for a job locally was going to take too long to manifest. I decided to start applying out of state. If I could get a job in time for the next work visa application season, I was good. Spoiler alert, I got it. I felt lucky for the first time in 2019.
But that’s not the only thing I achieved. See the thing is, I know how to fall apart and keep moving. Productivity and loved ones that were one call away are the reasons I didn’t try to overdose at any point. JK, that’s not a guaranteed way to off oneself, and I love guarantees. Anyway, here goes a list of achievements:
- I passed IELTS perfectly in one sitting. If I ever need to run to Canada, it’ll come in handy, plus the ego boost was nice.
- I had goals. I’ve never had goals my entire life. Instead, I’ve been floating, doing the next expected thing to do. My father laid out a vague blueprint of how my life was supposed to go and left out the part after I get shipped out to a different country and finish going to school. Last year, I realized it was time to get in the driver seat and figure out what my destinations would be going forward. It was scary, but it also meant complete freedom and independence, two things I’d never had before. That was when I introduced myself to the strange concept of goal setting.
- I met so many dope people. I’ve never had so many local friends that I didn’t go to school with. I didn’t even have friends in college. The one that meant the most to me moved away, but I believe I was assigned a new person by the universe, speaking of which…
- I got into an actual relationship. It didn’t go as planned, but the point is I was brave enough to try. And then, try again.
- I got semi-permanent birth control. Buying myself more time to decide whether I’m sticking out my decision to not birth kids ever felt so good.
- I read so much. It was a coping mechanism for grief, anger, anxiety, and loneliness.
- I learned how to be comfortable with new kinds of vulnerability. Being in a same-city relationship will show you just how basic and human you are, and I only stopped feeling lonely when I started peeling the layers off.
- I won the battle against depression again. I know that I’m most likely living to fight again, but for now, I’m out of the haze. Vitamin D supplements were objectively powerful weapons in this battle. Shoutout to them.
- I had pretty, manicured nails all year round. The level of fancy I’ve always strived to attain.
- I got my nearsightedness fixed with laser surgery. It was a stressful recovery process, but just like that, I no longer need recommended glasses at all. A huge flex.
- I locked my hair. I’d been going back and forth about whether I wanted real dreadlocks after a lifetime of trying out all the forms of fake dreadlock extensions that exist in the market, and I finally woke up one day and just did it. No regrets so far.
I was initially sceptical about whether I wanted the out-of-state job I got just before Christmas, but I eventually grew to want it so badly. It was my holiday present. I was excited for a day or two and then, in usual fashion, I proceeded to worry myself all the way to a few panic attacks. But I’ve decided that I’m making the most risk-moderate decision for myself by taking the job, and I’m looking forward to a fresh start in 2020 in a new, more developed city and ready as hell to fight the loneliness and challenges with all the skills that I’ve honed from surviving 2019 and the years before. I’m curious about what comes next.
Girl, we are all curious! And the new year is tomorrow too. Keep documenting your experiences, I have a feeling we will all be meeting you officially soon. Thank you for telling your story.